Archive for November 12th, 2009

Regional Dialects and L2 Learners

My original intent was to write about our new article coming out in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism (shameless plug I know), but this news article about L2 learners learning to distinguish spoken words by reading caught my eye.  

In the original study published in PLoS ONE the authors argue that seeing a written word in addition to hearing it helps listeners to figure out what the word is (when it’s distorted or an element is missing). This helps listeners within a language understand another regional dialect (say an American English speaker hearing Australian English or a Mexican Spanish speaker listening to Argentine Spanish). Of course some of the differences are lexical but many are about the sounds and stress patterns. 

The authors proposed that this same strategy could be used for second language learners who were used to another regional variety of that language. They had Dutch speakers who knew English watch excerpts of TV shows in Australian English or Scottish English (the participants indicated they had not spent significant time in either country). Three conditions were used: no subtitles, subtitles in English, subtitles in Dutch with half the participants watching Scottish and the other half Australian excerpts.

The Dutch participants were tested after watching 25 minutes of an episode. They listened to sentences from Scottish English and Australian English and had to repeat them.  One quarter of the sentences were from the show they had watched, 1/4 were in the same dialect, but hadn’t heard the particular sentences before, and the rest (1/2) were from the other dialect. Read the rest of this entry »

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